The other day a reader got in touch with me wanting advice on a question of ethics. I have the individual's permission to post the following so that you can share any thoughts or comments that you might have on the issue.
Note: I've made a few changes to the text to protect identities.
About six months ago a friend of mine was killed in a car accident while away at college. Then about a month ago, completely out of the blue, her parents got in touch with me asking if it would be possible for me to get access to her laptop computer (I guess they both know I'm a bit of a geek). I was somewhat taken aback by this sudden request and brushed them off saying that I was swamped under with work at present and said I'd get back in touch with them. Which I didn't ...
A few days ago they got in touch with me again, asking if I could access the notebook. I asked why they wanted me to do this and they said that they would just like to get photos off it to keep. They also asked me if I could find out the passwords to her online email accounts, just so they could check through it, delete stuff and so on.
I don't know about you, but I'm not sure that I'd like the idea of anyone - especially my parents! - snooping through my digital life whether I was dead or alive! Is that just my paranoia or should I apply how I'd like to be treated to others? Or, should I just get into the notebook (in case they ask someone else to do it, because they seem pretty desperate, and I'm pretty sure I can get in) and just clean up my friend's stuff and just give the parents a few photos and so on just to keep them happy?